What's it like teaching English to the Chinese? For Gary Toner, Beijing is anything but a forbidding city. Interview by Christopher Middleton

April 20, Telegraph

I started teaching English abroad when I was 22, soon after I graduated from university; I'm 35 now and have been doing it ever since. If you want to travel the world, there are a few ways to earn money while you do so.

You can pick fruit, pull pints or teach English. The third option has definitely suited me best. I've taught in Russia, Argentina, Spain and Slovakia and stayed an average of two years in each country. That said, I've been in China for five years. (I'm married now - my wife Sinead also works in Beijing and we have a little daughter called Niamh.)

Our flat is in the Sanlitun area, not far from the main football stadium, and I work at various schools in the city. The demand for English language teachers is staggering. Basically, if a Chinese person wants a job with an international company such as Hewlett Packard, then English is a must.

Teaching English in a country like Italy is another story. Everyone wants to work in Florence and there are bound to be lots of you chasing one job. In Beijing there aren't enough teachers to go round. Both the Chinese government and the business world are investing heavily in getting people to speak English, not least because of this year's Olympics.

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photo: Gary Toner in the classroom. Past and present: demand for English language tuition is soaring in Beijing, where ESL teacher Gary Toner is based (By Martin Pope)